A stay at the Silver Perch is a must for the traveler to Hy Brasil.
|As we left the berth where Pandora was docked, Emily turned me away from the city and guided me towards a broad stairway that led from the docks downward into primeval forest. As we descended the stairs, the lush green canopy darkened, and gradually blocked out the light of the sky over Hy Brasil. Just as it seemed to be getting dark enough to be perilous, we came to the bottom of the stairs and stepped into a pool of light. Looking up, I could see the opening in the trees where he canopy had been carefully trimmed, and a large funnel-shaped leather tarpaulin was skillfully woven into the tips of the branches to create a permanent skylight. At the edge of the oval, a torchlit path wove its way into the forest, with smaller versions of that same skylight spaced out along the way. We walked down the path about 30 yards to the first of these skylit ovals, which was positioned over a fork in the trail. There was an elaborately carved sign with our choices. The arrow to the left fork sat underneath a simple painting of a fireplace. The arrow to the right was placed beneath a bright parrot sitting on a silver perch. As we walked down the right fork, we chatted at some length about some of the things we'd overheard during the Night transit. We had similar theories about what brought any particular vision to someone, and began to discuss what it might be like to be somewhere other than an airship during Night in the Aether. With our conversation helping pass the time, we rounded a bend in the trail as we came upon the Silver Perch.
Imagine if you will, a treehouse. But not just any treehouse. This would be a treehouse built by a Vanderbilt or a Carnegie to provide a place to ease the mind and stimulate the imagination. The building itself sat 20' above the ground, nestled in the four-armed crook of an enormous tree. From its first floor, it rose another three stories. Amidst the green boughs of the tree, the bright red walls were trimmed in white and gold, and the nine-gabled roof rose above in a diamond pattern in gray and blue. Huge as it was however, it was nearly dwarfed by the tree which supported this grand palace. Stairs styled for some great cathedral rose from the ground to the entry, where the double doors stood an easy 12' tall. The dark green paint on the doors lent a magical shine to the golden fittings, and there were two footmen in dark blue livery posted on either side of the doors to greet visitors. As we mounted the stairs, the footmen turned to face one another, and as one opened the right-hand door, the other announced us in a loud voice, "Miss Emily Puryear, Countess of the Order of the Hourglass and proprietress of The Clockwork Teapot, and Mr. Vincent Coffin, Grandson of the Great Owen Coffin, and the Favored Companion of Constantine." An audible murmur became evident in the entry to the building, and I leaned over to whisper to Emily, "How do they know us?" She smiled up at me and said, "Oh, I am a regular here, and you," she tilted her head behind us with a grin, "you sort of announce yourself." I looked back behind us and noticed Constantine walking majestically behind us, tail and nose held high, his feet pacing the air two feet above the ground. I couldn't help but return her grin as I realized that no one who was ever affiliated with that particular cat could possibly go unnoticed. As we entered the front hall, we found it crowded with numerous travelers, many of whom bowed and curtsied to acknowledge our entrance. The variety of apparel from so many places and times made it seem as if we'd walked into a massive costume ball. One contingent stood out, however. Nine men stood at a long bar that ran at least 40 feet along the far wall. They were dressed in the hunter green dress tunics of Her Majesty's 23rd Time Brigade, and had stacked their pith helmets in a pyramid at the end of the bar. They seemed to be engaged in an animated conversation that seemed on the verge of breaking out into violence at any moment.
Suddenly, two of the men stepped away from the bar and squared off. Two others rushed to take their tunics, and then stood back as the two began to circle one another. Each of the men produced a large Bowie knife from his belt and prepared to provide grievous injury to the other. The room fell silent in anticipation of bloodshed. The two men noticed the quiet and looked around at their rapt audience. Both men were of about the same age, but their respective builds were quite different. One was tall and well muscled while the other was rather short and slender. Upon noticing the crowd, the tall one proclaimed loudly, "This malcontent does not agree that the American author Mark Twain is probably the greatest writer of all time, and instead posits that Dostoevsky is more than his match in both literary skill and wit!" The crowd turned towards the shorter fellow to see his response, which was immediately forthcoming, "That is indeed true," the wiry man shouted, "for Twain wrote only in English, and Dostoevsky had the language of his Mother Russia to deal with." At that point, the bartender spoke up, "Have you read Dostoevsky in Russian?" The slender fellow mulled this over a moment before replying, "No, indeed I have not, but what is your point?" The bartender smiled and said, "Then perhaps the true literary skill lay not with Dostoevsky, but with the fellow who translated it into English." he went on, addressing the taller man, "and as for Twain, his wit was truly incomparable, but his irascible nature often made him a bit of an outcast, and sometimes had a poor effect on the sales of his works."
The two men considered the bartender's words and grudgingly returned their knives to their belts, stepping back to the bar to consider the disagreement at an end. Emily laughed quietly, and gave me a little poke in the ribs. "I'd like you to meet the bartender. I think you'll be surprised." As we got closer to the bar, I was indeed surprised to recognize the bartender. He pulled his pipe out from under the white mustache and placed it under the bar as Emily approached and reached out her hand to him. "Mr. Clemens, I am always at a loss at your ability to defuse a situation." He smiled, a twinkle in his eye as he said, "Miss Puryear, I am at your service as always. But I must remind you once again to call me Sam." He turned towards me, slightly bowing his head, and reached out to hand me a small box. "Owen left this for you a couple of years ago. With this crowd, you may need it yet." I opened the little carved box to find a two-shot derringer and 6 cartridges. "It's already loaded, Vincent. The other six are just for contingencies." I thanked him and slipped the derringer into my vest pocket and the box into the pocket of my coat. As he poured three shots of bourbon for the two of us and himself, I couldn't help but wonder how neither of the combatants had recognized him. He leaned towards me in conspiratorial fashion, "None of those fellows are Americans, my boy. They've only seen the daugerotypes which, quite frankly, don't do me justice." With that he stood back and raised his glass. We followed suit, and the three of us drank. All three empty glasses struck the bar as one, and the night promised to be an interesting one indeed.
After several more drinks, we adjourned to the dining room and feasted on a variety of fine foods from all over the world. After dinner, Emily and I availed ourselves of a walk along the paths that had been created along the boughs of the great tree and spoke quietly about our prospective times and the places we knew. Her travels in the Aether were indeed impressive, and I was taken with her stories of those places that I had yet to visit. She was in turn captivated by my travels and experiences in the 20th and early 21st century, and we spoke at length of the differences that time had wrought in the places we both had in common. When we finally went to our room, we were ready for rest, but sleep seemed to simply escape us for several hours as we allowed our passion to forestall it.
Upon awakening, we found breakfast to be waiting for us in the sitting room of our suite, along with the not unwelcome presence of Dr. Gloriosky. He beamed at us as we entered smiling broadly, "My dear Vincent, my precious Miss Puryear, come and join me in this fine breakfast. We have things to discuss vital to us all!" We sat down to a fine breakfast of bacon and eggs, joined with a fine sausage and small potatoes in drawn butter. The tea was excellent, and we all sat back with a second cup to discuss Dr. Gloriosky's interests.
"We must first bring Miss Puryear up to date on our travels together, my boy." He went on to tell her about the engagement between Pandora and the Cloudwitch, and our discovery of the crew of undead that had manned that unfortunate vessel. She listened intently, then surprised us both with the information that she had an uncle aboard Cloudwitch when she had been destroyed. I was concerned that she would think less of me, but she immediately went on to say that she bore no ill will towards us for the encounter. Gloriosky then starled us both with his next news. "After examining the information gathered and forwarded to Spaulding and the Time Brigades by Spartacus Kane, it seems more and more evident that Mr. Cooger and Mr. Dark are the culprits at the root of this problem." Emily and I knew better than to discuss our encounter with those gentlemen at the Clockwork Teapot with Dr. Gloriosky, but we knew that we might have to have a conversation with my grandfather at some point in the near future before we went on with any plans Gloriosky and Spaulding might have.
After breakfast, Dr. Gloriosky excused himself, and we were left to our own plans, and we took in all the gracious amenities of the Silver Perch. On the third morning we received notice that Pandora would be departing that afternoon, and we made ready to board. We bid the fine staff a fond farewell and made our way to the berth where Pandora sat, gently rocking in her lines, as if tired of waiting to once again take to the skies. Spartacus Kane awaited us on the main deck as we boarded and told us that Constantine had made his appearance just minutes before. While always a bit of a surprise when he did that, I must admit that I had become comfortable with his individual comings and goings, and wound his mechanism whenever he was at hand and would allow it. Apparently a clockwork cat is every bit as independent as all of his flesh and blood relatives.
As we cast off from the wharves of Hy Brasil, Spartacus Kane met with us in the chart room and said we were going in pursuit of Cooger and Dark, but not until we had spoken with Owen Coffin. When Emily and I locked glances, Kane said simply, "Gloriosky is insistent, but I know there are things that we must know before we turn to the chore of finishing this business."
I was beginning to learn that traveling along the timelines is indeed a complex undertaking. As we spoke, Constantine blinked out of existence, no doubt on his way to fetch my grandfather.